What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla?

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Tack “French” onto anything’s name and it automatically sounds fancier: French wine, French cheese, etc. People often assume (consciously or unconsciously) that French vanilla is higher quality than regular ol’ vanilla. However, that’s not necessarily the case—in fact, it’s not even from France. 

Vanilla vs. French Vanilla Ice Cream

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“French vanilla” is not a type of vanilla bean (like Tahitian or Madagascar varieties), it’s an ice cream-making method. The base of French vanilla ice cream contains egg yolks, and traditionally, the base of plain vanilla ice cream does not. This is evident in the slightly different coloring of the varieties of ice cream: French vanilla has a golden tinge, while vanilla tends to be stark white. Vanilla ice cream made without egg yolks is also called “Philadelphia-style.”

French Vanilla Flavor

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Because of the egg yolks, French vanilla ice cream tastes richer and more custard-like than its plain vanilla counterpart. 

While the French vanilla label technically only applies to ice cream, many products—like coffee creamer—are French vanilla-flavored. This means that the vanilla tastes rich, caramelized, eggy, and has a custardy flavored finish. 

Read more: A Guide to Vanilla, an Ingredient That's Not So Vanilla After All

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